[extropy-chat] Angel Snot was Near Death Experiences: a scientific approach

Tom's name Here the_spoon_maker at hotmail.com
Wed Feb 25 13:32:18 UTC 2004

>Yes, I would define death as brain death the loss of electrical activity in 
>the brain - when the electroencephalogram or EEG (not the EKG) flatlines.

A flatline of all electrical activity? The pons could be still sending out 
instructions while all brain activity relevant to mind, i.e. stuff in the 
cerebral cortex, is gone.

>Another malfunction of this mechanism results in sleep paralysis where 
>people wake up and can sense their surroundings, even open their eyes and 
>see but cannot move.

Yes, a friend of mine suffered this very ailment and asked me about it not 
but five days ago. I find it curious the eyes are still permitted to move 
while the rest of the body is not. Of course the eyes are also the only 
thing to move during REM sleep. Why? Because nothing we could possibly do 
with our ocular muscles could hurt us? No amount of toe-wiggling could hurt 
us either, but we cannot move our toes. . .

>Actually, I think it would useful to confine our analysis to the possible 
>existence of a soul.

I don’t know of any evidence suggesting souls exist. All forms, functions 
and components of a mind have been pretty well diagnosed as being of 
biological or psychological origin. I see no reason for a soul to exist, or 
for us to suspect it of existing. As it happens I got into a separate 
discussion this night, and to sum up a three-hour conversation; “the 
possibility of existence is not a means to exist.”

>There is no reason to assume that the soul (if it exists at all) does not 
>roam the very same universe we do when alive.

Could what we call “mind” be a manifestation in this universe of a soul? 
Really, what is the difference between a mind and a soul, if we are 
disregarding afterlife?

>>I highly doubt different moralities and ethics produce different weights.
>* Actually I do too. I think it would be more likely that the amount of 
>life experience would have more to do with it- more memories = more soul.

Well memories and experiences are stored for the mind as new paths between 
neurons, correct? So we could hypothesize: more life experiences= more 
interneurons= more mass lost. So the people the lost the most weight would 
have more interneurons than the others; something easily determined.

>*Unless the soul were composed of <…> neutrinos, WIMPs,

My problem with weakly interacting particles forming the soul is: if the 
particles interact so weakly with normal matter, wouldn’t they interact even 
more weakly with themselves? Would they be stable enough to hold a pattern?

>gamma rays or other exotic forms of matter/energy
At the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, this was Arthur C. Clarke’s take on it. 
Patterns of energy zinging around space. This would mean there would be 
detectable signals zipping around in space. Every animal that has had a 
brain and died would have a soul in space, so detecting one shouldn’t be 
hard (in orbit), unless the signals are going away from earth.

However I do understand what you mean about a pattern existing without a 
substrate. Russell Evermore’s idea about the Abba CD is perplexing, but then 
I realize that the pattern always exists. If the all the CDs are destroyed, 
it will still exist in memory. If all the sheet music is burned and all 
memory of it wiped, the pattern no longer exists in any form. The only way 
the pattern exists is the same way any other song ever written by anyone 
else, or any song yet to be written. That specific collection of beats, 
vocals and instrumental notes exists, but so does that same collection of 
beats, vocals and instrumental notes, with only one different note, or five 
different notes, or a hundred. What I mean is it exists as a combination, 
but any combination is just as existent as the Abba song is. It exists as a 

Simply because we have a pattern of brain activity that can be recorded at 
the time we die doesn’t mean it will be carried off, or leave of its own 

>*I would bet against it too but I think the experiment should be done 

I take back what I said earlier. I think that if someone wonders and is not 
swayed by others’ testimony, they deserve to do whatever is necessary 
(within reason) to satisfy that lack of knowledge. However I agree with the 
others, in this case, the burden of proof, and responsibility for the 
experiment, would fall not on the scientific community but on the proponents 
of the idea of a soul.

>Besides, it doesn't seem like it would be terribly expensive. It could be 
>done in some state with a lethal injection or gas chamber death penalty for 

Also detectors could be set up to measure increases in parts of the 
electromagnetic spectrum. Kind like the tools those “ghost hunters” use on 
those TLC type programs. (I’m not saying they’re true, but the tools might 
serve our purposes) Even if we couldn’t put up detectors for WIMPs or 
neutrinos, simply objectively eliminating other possibilities would be worth 

>Maybe someone could get a grant from a Christian university or even a 
>church to perform the experiment.

I kind of doubt it. While individual members within the church might want to 
see it happen, the church would not. Why would they take the chance, if it 
could go against them? I do believe you could find support for the 
experiment among the general populace, though. The hard part, I think, would 
be finding someone willing to die under the conditions proposed.

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